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Posts published in September 2023

Who’s this ‘we’?

The Idaho quote of last week: Idaho Falls attorney and Republican state party official Bryan Smith saying, “If Idaho gets ranked choice voting, we’re finished. It’s that simple.”

That could be true, depending on how you define “we.”

Smith could be referring to the Idaho Republican Party, but that won’t work. Idaho simply has too many Republicans, and Republican-leaning voters, for any tactics like ranked choice or even gerrymandering to much change the picture.

But it could change which Republicans are in charge.

Let’s game this out.

The system of primary elections, as Idaho has known it, would go away. Instead, in the primary (in the sense of “first”) election, all candidates for a given office - specifically, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, state legislature, statewide office, and county elective offices - would appear on the ballot, and voters could pick one candidate for each of them. If only four or fewer people have filed for a specific office, they proceed to the November election directly; if more than four file, then the four top vote-getters continue to the general election.

Then in November, when voters select from among those (up to) four people, they get to make a nuanced choice: They pick a first preference, then a second (in case the first choice falls short of winning), and a third. If no candidate gets an outright majority among top-choice votes, then the second-place votes come into play, and maybe the third, until someone winds up with a majority of the vote. That would eliminate the idea of someone winning one of those offices with, say, 23% of the vote. Every winner will have had to get some level of support from a majority of voters.

In most contests, the decision would be made the way it always has: In any race with only two candidates, one always gets an outright majority. This change would only affect races with three or more candidates.

Where will this make a difference? Mainly in two places.

One is where two major-party candidates are in a competitive contest, and an independent or third-party candidate, or more than one, also is on the ballot. We do see a number of these for top-of-ballot offices like governor (less often locally, though it happens), and if the major party contenders are close, the minors can make a difference. (Consider Ralph Nader and the Florida election results in 2000.) Ranked choice would change that by asking people to mark their second choice, resulting in a more-acceptable result to a majority of voters.

The second place it matters is when a major, especially dominant, political party has a split between factions. In California, Alaska and Washington state, which have variations of this election system in place, some districts are so strongly Democratic or Republican that the top two choices in November sometimes belong to just one party.

And that works. Imagine a legislative district fairly typical in Idaho: strongly Republican, with three candidates filing for a seat: A traditional conservative Republican, a Republican in the mold of the more extreme state party leadership, and a Democrat. All three would pass through the primary to November. Then, if the district is strongly Republican - as most in Idaho are - the two Republicans probably would wind up in first and second place, possibly with neither getting a majority. The Democratic voters would then be able to weigh in on one of the Republicans as a second choice.

That might - might - throw the election to the mainstream Republican, and that precisely is what has state party leaders like Smith and Chair Dorothy Moon so concerned. But consider what it also means: All of the voters will get to have a meaningful voice in who is elected to represent them, which is far from the situation now. All of the candidates would have an open shot at persuading the voters to elect them. What would matter is what the voters choose.

It would allow voters to choose the elected officials, not the other way around. If some party leaders disapprove of that, pause a moment to consider why.



If you do electrical stuff, you know continuity means you have a connection from one end of the wire to the other. I want to talk about continuity in healthcare. It’s related.

I’m sure you’ve all experienced it. You call for an appointment with your provider about a health problem you’ve put off for too long. The next available appointment with your usual is months off, so you take what they offer. You are now getting to share your intimacies with someone new.

A lot of caring for people is about trust. Trust develops, or it doesn’t, over time.

That first interaction with someone is often about getting to know and trust that person.

I always thought I gave better care to the patients I knew. I have spent a lot of time working in ER’s and urgent care, where continuity cannot be expected. I still thought I gave pretty good care in acute situations. But some things need a broader perspective.

Some people don’t need that kind of sustained continuity. Healthy people without chronic problems don’t need “annual physicals”. If your insurance company or doctor offers you this as some sort of perk, beware. Such a practice has never been shown to improve population health.

I had some patients insist on it, along with regular blood tests. I tried to discourage them, citing the evidence for the wastefulness, and the little value I might add to their general health. After a few of my admonitions, they probably sought care with a doctor who sold such.

There are some occasional screenings that the general population should receive, especially as we get older, but an annual physical for a healthy forty-year-old just pads somebody’s pocket.

But people with chronic health problems should have consistent care, and that consistent care should come from a regular provider they know and trust.

The clinic where I work now has a pharmacy attached and refills get reviewed. I got sent a refill request for a patient with diabetes. I didn’t know them. They hadn’t seen a provider in our clinic for a couple years. A doc had left suddenly and there were some balls dropped, but I only authorized a month’s worth of this person’s meds and insisted they come in for an appointment. They finally came in to be seen after three months of one-month refills, then finally I said two weeks at a time.

They were pretty mad with me. “You just want my money! Just give me the meds!”

“Do you check your blood sugars?” I asked.

“That’s none of your business! I got a buddy I fish with, and he tells me how to handle my diabetes.”

“Then he should be prescribing these medicines for you. Because right now, I am responsible for these prescriptions. And I will not be if we don’t have a relationship.” And we didn’t after that, not prescribing, nor trusting, nor therapeutic. I hope they get the care they need. But I need some limits.

Providers can promote continuity or inhibit it. Patients have acute needs, unscheduled. If providers don’t keep openings in their schedules for such “walk in” needs, then they get pushed off to the new guy with openings, or the urgent care or the ER. The biggest time investment for me in the ER was understanding the patients’ medical history, since that was usually unavailable.

Back to the wire. The current can flow, one end to the other. That’s continuity. Health care should provide care from one end to the other, cradle to grave. That’s why I wanted to be a Family Physician. I wanted that kind of continuity.

Last week I saw a young mother in the clinic, whose mother I had cared for and whom I had delivered. She was well. It felt good.


Necessity of gadflies

From my deskside Merriam-Webster:

GADFLY: "a person who stimulates or annoys other people."

Many, many moons ago, I had a friend in city government in Idaho. Two term councilman, one term mayor. Then, more terms as councilman. Asked why he went back to a council seat, he said "As mayor, I couldn't vote unless there was a tie, wasn't allowed (by rule) to debate issues and had almost no voice and little room in which to operate. But, sitting in the chair on the end of the dais as a councilman again, I could be the gadfly." And, he was an excellent gadfly!

I've found government, at all levels, to be more responsive and more effective, when there was an active, well-grounded gadfly - or two - stirring conventional thinking.

Consider our current, feckless, ineffective U.S. Senate. No active, responsible gadflies in the GOP majority. None. Eunuchs, mostly. What few there be are Democrats. The two most prominent "irritant" voices on issues needing attention are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Because of their continued prodding of the body politic, they've had a few successes: Warren in banking issues and consumer legislation; Sanders on veteran's affairs and health care.

If Democrats take the next Senate with a solid majority, they'll need Sanders and Warren right where they are. Sanders long history of working for national health care and proven knowledge of veteran's issues will be even more valuable. So, too, will Warren's passion for consumer financial protections in the marketplace. They're positioned to be the real "wheel horses" - and gadflies - for necessary changes in those important areas.

The popularity of both Senators seems, at least to me, more based on celebrity and personality than the "heavy" experience necessary for an effective, long-term presidency. Both have hardcore constituents, of course. But, the depth of their support seems confined to just each Senator.

To retake the presidency, the successful candidate will need not only that core of support, but party unity. Sanders and Warren appear to have mostly diehard backers that, in the past, have shown a deliberate unwillingness to get behind anyone else. Might talk to Hillary about that.

While the continued congressional service of both to the Democrat Party is highly desirable, their long-term value seems even more important leaving them right where they are. Their tendency to be gadflies, irritating inattentive cohorts to action, has proven effective in years past.

Good gadflies need freedom to operate effectively. Freedom to be successful. An old friend from Pocatello would vouch for that.


A battle for the soul

Those who keep abreast of Idaho politics are aware that there are presently two major factions of Idaho’s Republican Party. There are the traditionalists, who have a conservative outlook but believe in reasonable, problem-solving government. Then there are the upstarts, who seem to believe that government is inherently bad, unless it is serving their narrow interests. A struggle for control of the GOP has been going on since the turn of the century and may finally be decided in the 2024 general election.

The traditionalist faction held sway over the party until 2008, when the upstart faction deposed the party chair and began tightening its grip over party machinery. The GOP primary election was closed to all but registered Republicans. The party took a hard right turn with strong support from dark-money, right-wing groups like the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF).

The upstarts have yet to take over the governorship, but it is not for lack of trying. Their candidate came within five percentage points of winning the GOP primary contest for Governor in 2018. They have had much better luck in legislative races and now command majorities in both houses of that body. Their candidates have a tremendous advantage in primary races because they control the party structure. In this one-party state, a win in the GOP primary almost ensures a win in the general election.

The traditionalist faction has gotten behind a voting system that will break the upstart control over the GOP and allow traditional Republicans to compete in open elections. The Open Primaries Initiative, which has the support of a wide swath of traditional Republicans, will likely be approved by Idaho voters next year. It will break the stranglehold of the upstarts over who gets elected to public office.

The upstarts, under the leadership of GOP chair Dorothy Moon, have been lambasting the initiative with increasingly outlandish claims. They proclaim that it will result in Democratic control of Idaho, ignoring the fact that their claim is mathematically impossible. The current voter registration figures tell the tale–12.7% Democrat, 58.2% Republican and 27.5% unaffiliated. Moon has not explained how the Dems can take control of the state with their tiny minority of registered voters. She knows that the real threat to her control of the GOP is from Republicans like Butch and Lori Otter and the wide array of traditional Republicans who have had their fill of her and her cadre of culture warriors. They support the initiative to restore responsible governing in Idaho.

Moon may not realize that she and her IFF-supported legislators will be a major factor in voter approval of the initiative. She has twisted party rules in what has been characterized as a “systematic conspiracy” to control local party leadership, most recently in Bingham County. She has stuffed the state party ranks with loyalists, excluding any factions that do not fall in line, most recently women and young people. Former First Lady Lori Otter pointed to Moon’s misconduct in this regard as a reason for supporting the initiative, saying, “shame on Dorothy Moon.”

Misbehavior by Moon’s followers in the 2024 legislative session will also drive voter support for the initiative. Being an election year, they will be unable to resist following their usual agenda of creating a maximum amount of fear, outrage and chaos in the Legislature. Meaningless culture war issues will remind voters of those good old times when traditional Republicans worked with Democrats to actually get something done to address real problems, like fixing dilapidated schools, rebuilding infrastructure, providing meaningful property tax relief and shoring up Idaho’s struggling child care system.

In the meantime, the Take Back Idaho organization will swing back into action in next year's GOP primary to support traditional Republicans and oppose the upstarts who are just committed to stirring up trouble. That will be an interim measure to reinstate some responsibility and pragmatism into the governing process, but the Open Primaries Initiative will be the decisive blow to the troublemaking upstarts.

(image/Wikimedia Commons)

A split might yield more civic connection

An upcoming government change could make Portlanders feel more connected to City Hall.

A Portland commission just adopted a map specifying council wards, something new for the city where council members in the past have been elected at large. The new system tracks the change in role for council members, since they will no longer oversee specific city agencies but rather will have a more legislative role. All of that is just part of the overhaul of Portland city government approved by voters last year.

In Portland, as in many cities, economic and social networks, often located in a few areas in town, and often representing a wealthy establishment, have tended to dominate council membership. The requirement for broader distribution of council membership may bring more city attention to large stretches of the city long overlooked by City Hall. It also may affect who runs for the council and who can be elected.

And it might make some Portlanders a little happier with their city.

In a 2003 study of city wards in Oregon, John Rehfuss, a former professor of public management, found at least 22 cities with ward systems. (Those were all the cases Rehfss said he could find.) A respondent from one of those cities, Salem, said, “We believe the ward system, in combination with our neighborhood associations, allows for more responsiveness to the concerns of a smaller area and population. Salem is too large and diverse to be knowledgeable about every local concern.”

In some places, wards that are supposed to be nonpartisan – like cities in Oregon – can still be partisan.

A good example is in Boise, Idaho, which overall is a blue city in a statewide sea of red. State legislators taking aim at Boise in 2020 required that cities with 100,000 people or more would henceforth be required to elect council members by district, or wards, as they often are called at the municipal level. Although in Idaho, as in Oregon, city officials all are officially nonpartisan, also as in Oregon their personal leanings are seldom a secret. The Boise council consisted entirely of Democratic leaners in the at-large years. A new district system brought one Republican into the mix.

You can find a similar trend in many of the Oregon cities which have council districts, and a surprising number of them do.

Oregon’s second and third largest cities, Eugene and Salem, each have eight council districts. Both cities have clear internal partisan geographic splits, and those are reflected in the districts. Council members running, for example, near Eugene’s university area and downtown are more likely to be liberal and Democratic than those running toward the north and western sides of the city.

Others among Oregon’s largest cities have council wards too: Hillsboro (three wards), Medford (four wards), Springfield (six wards) and Corvallis (nine wards). There’s a long list of smaller Oregon ward cities, too, including Grants Pass, Albany, McMinnville, Klamath Falls, Lebanon, Astoria, Lincoln City, Central Point and Cottage Grove. One small town respondent to the 2003 survey said, “In smaller towns, it can be difficult to find individuals willing and qualified to fill positions.”

Portland’s council is unlikely to see much serious ideological or partisan divide. Almost every precinct in Portland voted 75% or more for Democrat Joe Biden for president; there are really no significant purple patches, much less red spots, in the city.

That doesn’t mean the new districts – each of which will elect three council members – won’t result in actual policy differences, at least in very broad strokes.

Number 1, to the east and across from Gresham, is a relatively working class district where residents have long complained of being ignored by City Hall. Number 2, in the northwest of the city and facing the Columbia River, has a more industrial background with a gentrifying aspect. Number 3, in the center of the city on the east side of the Willamette, is what many people think of as stereotypically Portlandia. Number 4, mostly in the downtown and leafy and hilly areas west of the Willamette, has its own perspective.

On issues like infrastructure, zoning, homelessness and law enforcement, the arrival of districts is likely to give each part of town someone to stand up for their area and fight against it becoming a service desert or a dumping ground.

And that could make for a big difference in the governing of Portland. It might even lead to a little more civic satisfaction.

This column originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle.


Open ballot, mirror image

As Idaho voters start to consider the idea of opening primary election ballots in their state to all voters, they might want to view the concept from a neighboring angle.

Oregon also has the question of opening primary elections on its ballot (as also do the states of Nevada, Oklahoma, Nebraska and South Dakota). What does the picture look like there?

(Yes, I know the Idaho measure also builds in a ranked-vote approach, which Oregon’s doesn’t. I’ll come back to that another time.)

Oregon voters already have gotten mailers from the backing group, All Oregon Votes, which quoted former (non-aligned) gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson as saying, “Damn near half the state’s voters are independents. They ought to have an equal voice in our democracy.”

The organization, which says it wants to reduce “hyperpartisanship,” put it this way: “Our measure does not prevent political parties from endorsing or promoting candidates at any stage of the election process. However, political parties should not have an exclusive right to nominate candidates to the general election ballot. That right should be shared by all voters, not just a partisan few.”

Oregon Republicans don’t like it. The dominant forces in its party lean firmly to the right, not the middle, and the current system gives them nominees that match with them.

Neither does the Oregon Democratic Party, which has dominated politics statewide and doesn’t much care to change things. Also, just like across the aisle: The dominant forces in its party lean firmly to the left, not the middle, and the current system gives them nominees that match with them.

Oregon is one of the few states allowing only party members to participate in their primary elections, and that applies to both Democrats and Republicans. Here’s an example of what that means. In last year’s primary election, the top two candidates for Oregon governor, Democrat Tina Kotek (who now holds the office), and Republican Christine Drazan, together pulled just 12.3% of votes from all the registered voters in the state. Only about 30% of the Oregonians qualified to vote were even involved in selecting those two nominees.

The largest slice of Oregon voters is made up of the “non-aligned,” more numerous (there are more than a million) than either Democrats or Republicans. Oregonians are careful to call them NAVs because there is also an Independent Party of Oregon, which has so many members it has sometimes reached major party status alongside the Ds and Rs. What this means is that a lot of registered voters are on the outside when the primary election winnowing takes place.

Oregon’s Initiative Petition 26 would apply to all state and federal offices (other than president and vice president) and allows all candidates to appear on the ballot, “regardless of whether the candidate is or is not affiliated with a political party.” All voters could choose any single candidate for each office. That could mean, for example, voting in the primary for a Republican nominee for the U.S. House, for a Democratic nominee for governor and a non-aligned candidate for the Legislature.

I wrote about this (in another column), “Those debates implicate the question of what a major political party is, whether simply private aggregations of voters or semi-public, though technically private, organizations that effectively control the channels of representative democracy. It may also raise the issue of how well the two major parties are representing the mass of Oregon voters.”

That may have something to do with why the two Oregon parties are cool, at best, to the idea.

A point worth considering in Idaho as voters think about how to fix their badly busted primary election system.


A bike for Kevin

I remember well, walking up to the polling place some years ago and marking a big "X" for the federal candidate of my choice.  The person who could make a difference.  Or, so I believed at the time.

But now, looking at the Republican dogfight in the U.S. House, can anyone in that place make a difference?  Is there any GOP sanity left in those (formerly) hallowed halls?

It doesn't seem so.

The whole current mess stems from one simple thing.  One man's ego-driven - almost maniacal - attempt to cling to power.  The power that is attached to the Speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives. A military jet on call.  A large suite of offices.  A significantly larger staff.  Media attention.  Much bowing and scraping before that person.

Compounding the problem is the individual who currently holds that power is someone who's never effectively used it to any worthwhile end.  The most ineffectual Speaker in my long memory.

Democrats in the House can quietly sit on the sidelines and watch.  This is an internecine squabble that has brought the wheels of legislative action to a complete halt.   The best thing Democrats can do is just keep quiet.

Kevin McCarthy's struggle to stay in that high office is a craven example of grasping for power simply for self.  He's brought nothing in the way of accomplishment to the fray.  His previous occupancy shows miserably few successes.  He's used the powers of the office to settle scores with old "enemies" while trying to keep a lid on the contentiousness of his own Party.  An effort he's not been able to accomplish.

While McCarthy is waging this fight for political power, our nation is about to hit a meaningful deadline: the necessity of a budget for the coming two years.  A deadline of September 30th.

He's well-aware of that fact.  Yet, he continues to put himself before country and before the oath of office he's taken several times.  The fight he's waging is driven by ego.  He's got the power - and all the accouterments of that power - and thoughts of what's best for the nation or even his own political Party are nowhere to be found.

When former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was ousted by a new majority in the House, she quietly took a seat in the back and kept her mouth shut.  She's probably been a source of invaluable experience for the Democratic Caucus.  But, she's not voiced any undue criticism of McCarthy or his actions.  Though he certainly deserves criticism.

If McCarthy loses his fight, the next question is, if not McCarthy for Speaker, then who?  Any Republican names come quickly to mind?  Anyone who's been able to form an effective coalition in the House?

I can't come up with a name.  I'm certain there are plenty of "wannabees" but, not on my radar.

The national Republican Party has become such a fractious mess and no one, it seems, can bring all the pieces together.  Good, solid voices - like Mitt Romney - are walking away from a Party that badly needs the voice of reason that is now lacking in the GOP.

There exists a divisiveness not seen in many, many years.  It's not just the normal discontent within a Party.  It's become so much an "us vs. them" struggle within the GOP that the Party lacks direction and has become ungovernable.  I'd guess that has a lot to do with Romney's decision to quit.  And, there'll likely be others.

There are forces building that'll make the elections of 2024 much more important than other recent turnouts.  Voting for a President, yes.  But, down-ballot voting is looking like a whole new and vastly important exercise.  Every seat in the House will be up-for-grabs.  And, a third of the Senate.

It'll be directly up to voters to determine what the next Congress looks like.  And, sounds like.  If voters can look beyond their usual balloting for incumbents - if they'll be open to researching new faces and new voices - the next Congress can be very different.  And, maybe less contentious.  Maybe more effective.  And, younger.

New - and much younger - candidates can change the face of an aging political body.  The new blood, represented by 40-50 and even 60-year-old new faces, can get things back on track.  Can rise above the stalemate we're currently living with.

This nation is facing serious issues that need full attention.  Issues like climate change and environmental damage.  Issues lost in the calamity of a badly divided political Party - a badly divided Congress - a damaged and divided country.

Considering the work to be done, the political fortunes of a Kevin McCarthy pale to almost nothing.  McCarthy made his deals with the devil(s) on his doorstep years ago.  In his personal, ego-driven grasp for power, he now faces "payback time."  The petard on which he's impaled is his own.

What's facing this nation - in multiple challenges - is so much more important than whether McCarthy keeps his government-provided limousine service.  There's a large, mostly unused bicycle rack at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Time for Kevin to get pedaling.


A liberal plot?

Dorothy Moon, the head of the dysfunctional branch of Idaho’s Republican Party, has declared war on the Open Primaries Initiative. She’s made false claims that it will be confusing to voters, give rise to voter fraud, turn Idaho liberal, reduce voter turnout and destroy the Republican Party. The initiative is modeled after the Alaska system which worked very well in last year’s elections. Voters were not confused, there was no fraud, Republicans did quite well and turnout was not reduced. It won’t destroy the Republican Party, but it will open up the GOP primary and allow reasonable, traditional Republicans to take back control of their party.

In a September 13 press conference, former First Couple, Butch and Lori Otter, expressed strong support for the Open Primaries Initiative. They were joined by 114 other long-time Republicans who are sick at heart with what has happened to their party since the primary was closed in 2011.

Otter said he supports the initiative because it would remove control of primary elections from a small group of party functionaries. He said: “The right to vote is one of the most precious rights that Americans have. Every registered voter should have the right to weigh in on choosing our leaders. Independents, including a lot of military veterans, have been excluded from having their say because of the closed GOP primary.”

He continued: “The system worked well in Alaska in 2022. The idea that the system will hurt the Republican Party was debunked by the election results. The Republican Governor and US Senator were both re-elected and Republicans had ‘one of their best statehouse showings ever,’ according to the Cato Institute.”

Lori Otter said she was concerned about the GOP leadership’s marginalization of women and young people. “Taking away the State Central Committee votes of Republican women and young Republicans is a step in the wrong direction. The official party has become what the party chair calls a ‘private club’ that can purge or censure those who do not follow the party line. The idea that the party can censure or discipline its own governor and other GOP officeholders is counter to the basic principles of our party.”

Former Lt. Governor Jack Riggs said that traditional longtime Republicans in North Idaho “have largely been pushed out of the GOP. The party apparatus has been taken over by bullies who don’t seem to have any interest in addressing the real issues confronting the state. They dwell on national culture war issues–villainizing librarians, doctors, teachers and traditional conservatives–while ignoring roads, infrastructure and public schools. The Open Primaries Initiative will change all of that, as they well know. It threatens their unholy grip on power and that’s why they are fighting so hard against it.”

Regarding the issue of administering elections under the initiative, Chris Rich, who served 13 years as Chief Deputy to the Ada County Clerk and then 8 more years as elected Clerk, said: “Idaho election officials will be able to honestly and accurately tabulate the election results under the initiative. Given the appropriate tools, the clerks can manage most any election. We are every bit as capable as the election officials in Alaska and Maine, both of which have ranked-choice voting.”

Former Senator and Idaho Veterans Services Administrator Marv Hagedorn said, “the initiative will give all veterans the right to vote in the primary election. Almost half of America’s veterans consider themselves independent voters. They can’t participate in the GOP primary unless they register as Republicans and the present party leadership is trying to make it harder for folks to do that. Veterans have earned the absolute right to vote in any election they so choose.”

Seems to me that Butch, Lori and the 114 other traditional Republicans have made the better case. The Open Primaries initiative is not a liberal plot to take over the state, but a reasonable step toward restoring responsibility and pragmatism to governing in the Gem State. We have suffered being the laughingstock of the nation for long enough.



Jumping the gun

The legal case stemming from the killing last year of four University of Idaho students is underway, with no result - conviction, acquittal or something else - likely for months to come. During what may be an extended pause in the visible part of the process, there’s time to consider what’s happened so far.

My prompt for that is a new book (slated for release on October 4), While Idaho Slept, by J. Reuben Appelman, piecing together the substantial mass of details about the case collected and publicly available.

Absent a legal resolution of the case, the book may seem premature. Still, some months ago a book by Leah Sottile, “When the Moon Turns to Blood,” successfully reviewed another not-yet-folly-resolved criminal case by considering not so much the crime itself as the background relating to it. Appelman may be doing the same here, providing a focus for pause and reflection.

Too often, the focus in crimes like this is on the perpetrator, which may have the effect of feeding a criminal’s simple hunger for attention. (It’s only a gesture, but I won’t name the accused in this column.) Appelman seems to have considered this, and while fully backgrounding the accused, said of his effort that “My goal in writing it was to elevate public memory of the victims … What happened to the victims on King Road has made me appreciate how truly valuable each of our lives are, and taught me to hold tightly to the many people who have stayed with me throughout the years.”

Much of the book does focus on them, though an assembly of information about the subsequent investigation inevitably had to extend further.

But in reading the book, I was reminded of something else.

Last December, about three weeks following the killings but before an arrest has been made or suspect named, I wrote, “And while complaints are abundant about that not having happened yet, and about the relative scarcity of information that’s been released, those of us not in the middle of the investigation really have little way of knowing how well law enforcement is or isn’t doing. (Credit due, though, for the willingness to clear people who have been thrown into the rumor circle’s suspect pile.) Eventually, we will be able to evaluate.”

While Idaho Slept makes a good case that law enforcement did in fact do its job.

The word that comes to mind, after knowing now much more about the inquiry, is “methodical,” in a good way. In many murder cases, the offender is either obvious or someone on a suspect short list, and that wasn’t remotely the case here. (The actual connection between the accused and the victims still seems, based on publicly available information, the thinnest part of the case.) Investigators didn’t seem to have a lot to work with in tracking down their suspect.

But they used effectively what data they did have, including a knife sheath, GPS records and other odds and ends, which were put carefully through their paces. Each time Appelman brought up some detail related to the case, I thought: I hope the cops checked that out. And then it turned out they did, more efficiently and energetically than it probably seemed from the outside at the time. While people not only in Moscow but around the world were hollering about the lack of an arrest, the police were patiently assembling the pieces and tracking down their guy, while being careful not to spook him and send him into flight.

Law enforcement comes off pretty well in this story.

Of course, there’s no conviction so far, and as always we have yet to see how a jury reacts to the evidence presented (which could include more than we’re publicly aware of now).

Sometimes, patience is what’s called for.